(Practical) Beauty Lessons from My Mother
Fact: Girls' sense of self-worth, esteem, and attitude towards beauty come from their mothers. Sure, glossy magazines and the media play a huge role in telling girls what they ought to look like, but nothing comes close to the influence moms have on their daughters.
You always hear horror stories of how a mom's comments on her daughter's appearance would scar a girl for life. You have grown women with serious issues who are still trying to meet their mother's expectations. Seriously, no amount of daddy issues compare to having a mom with messed up ideals!
A Bit About My Mom
I consider myself extremely lucky to have been raised by a tomboy mom. My mom grew up in a small, rural town where she spent most of her time outdoors and playing sports. She attended university in the big city (and experienced major culture shock) and after graduating, spent a bulk of her adult years in a costume – heels, skirt suits, and a face full of makeup – constantly working and traveling. The day she left her job was also the day she left manicured nails and high heels… for life!
It comes as no surprise that I rebelled growing up and became the girliest girl, with the heaviest cosmetics bag in the 'hood by age nine. But no amount of Bobbi Brown books and Seventeen magazines compared to the lessons my mom taught me by example:
Comfort Over Style
On any given day, my mom's more likely to be underdressed than overdressed. She lives in 100% cotton t-shirts, basketball shorts, and sporty sandals. She doesn't even own a pair of jeans, which are the epitome of casual wear, because she finds them too constricting. To her, feeling good is way more important than looking good. I'd always tease her about having the same wardrobe as my husband. She counters by saying she never wants to teeter around in heels instead of chasing her grandkids around. Touché.
Without ever saying it in words, my mother taught me to never care what others think, especially when it comes to your appearance. Being fashionable was not something that ever concerned her. She proudly wore cheesy souvenir t-shirts we bought her from our travels, and this atrocious straw cowboy hat (with miscellaneous pins!) on really sunny days.
She extended this lesson about being fearless to me and my sister when we were growing up – as we experimented with fluorescent makeup, cut our own hair, and left the house looking like straight-up clowns during our teenage years, she never said a word. She never criticized our questionable taste in clothing and makeup. And while I wish she did say something once in a while (because now I have almost a decade's worth of photos I want to burn), I appreciate that she let us be ourselves and have FUN.
Take Care of the Base
It wasn't often that my mom doled out beauty advice, but when she did, it was extremely practical and health-oriented. She taught us to always use sunscreen to avoid getting burned and prevent skin cancer. When we started wearing makeup, she stressed the importance of washing our face every single night. She also encouraged us to constantly stay active. While we lived a very modest lifestyle, she didn't think twice about splurging on sports lessons, bicycles, and other athletic equipment.
Her idea was that no amount of cosmetics and expensive clothes will make up for a face and body that's not well cared for.
Exercise Should Never Be a Chore
My mother has never stepped foot in a gym her whole life – well, at least not your typical gym with weights and machines. Her idea of exercise wasn't slaving away on a treadmill or torturing herself running for miles on end.
Instead, she took up sports. From her childhood days until now, she loves swimming, basketball, volleyball, and tennis. She's been the MVP for various teams throughout her life. These days, seniors fight over her at the local community centers to join their volleyball team or play tennis 'til sundown. She even had to hide from one tennis court regular when we were at the park playing with the kids (sure enough, he spotted her and asked to play a few rounds!).
And she never played sports to reach a goal weight or get beach ready – she played tennis to perfect her backhand, and swam to improve her strokes. To her, exercising was about challenging yourself, mastering your skills, feeling good, and having fun. Sweating was a bonus.
Invest in Quality
While she mostly wore sporty, comfortable clothes, my mom knew how to work it when it came to special occasions. But when it came to fancy duds, she had three high-quality dresses in rotation. Shopping is not one of her favorite pastimes – she finds it frivolous and a waste of money. Her wardrobe is filled with simple pieces that work for her body type, and she takes care of them instead of spending so much on fast fashion.
Her one exception: Well-made shoes. She taught us never to scrimp when it comes to footwear, because there's nothing that’ll kill you faster than a cheap pair of shoes.
Beauty is Within
My mom stands at 5 feet 8 inches with an athletic build, and looks 30 (when she's actually 55) thanks to her perfect skin and youthful attitude. She's one gorgeous woman, but outer beauty never mattered to her. She never talks about how she looks, nor does she ever discuss other people's appearances when they're not around. She'll describe someone as "really kind", "confident", or "hard-working", never "pretty" or ugly".
Never Compare Yourself to Others
Growing up in our household, the roles were reversed. My mom worked, while my dad stayed home and was involved in all the PTA meetings. He was surrounded by a TON of ladies – ladies who were very feminine, petite, and didn't wear the pants in the relationship – pretty much the opposite of my mom! I've always noticed this growing up, but it wasn't until recently that I asked my mom if it bothered her.
She said she never really thought about it – she's just not the type to feel insecure, because she has no reason to be. She said she likes the way she is, and so does my dad. And that was that!
Be Generous with Compliments
While personal appearance didn't matter to her, she had this incredible ability to make everyone around her feel their best. To this day, she never fails to tell me and my sister how beautiful we are. When I gained over 50 lbs. during my pregnancy and was constantly swollen, she'd always compliment my "glow". These days, when I look completely haggard from lack of sleep and taking care of the kids, she tells me I look happy, fulfilled, and that I'm an amazing mother for raising two happy, healthy, smart, and beautiful children of my own.
Now that I have my own daughter, it's my goal to pass on these practical beauty lessons that my mom has instilled in me. Some moms pass on Clinique gifts-with-purchase. Mine passed on the gift of knowing that I don't need that crap to be beautiful.
What has your mother taught you about beauty, and what are some of your own beauty lessons that you're planning to pass on to your daughter?
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